Jubilation as government kick-starts dry season farming

A new dawn beckons for dry season farmers in the country as the government has kick-started the programme meant to run in all the states; SUNNY IDACHABA writes.

Once more, the dry season is here. Usually, it comes with heat, dryness, and harmattan. On a general note, it’s not the best farming period for farmers except irrigation farming which is practised on a low-scale in Nigeria and largely restricted to areas that do not lack water seasonally.

However, in line with the need for self-reliance in food production and food security, governments in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, are devising new methods of ensuring that all year-round, foods of all shades are available to the people. This is borne out of the fact that in many parts of the continent, there are crops that are grown per season, including the dry season period. This is probably the reason the federal government is proactively engaged in the pursuit of dry season farming.

Investigations by this reporter revealed that apart from certain crops like palm trees and assorted fruits that naturally thrive during the dry season, and in particular the harmattan period, there are other crops being deliberately cultured to thrive in the dry season and that is the idea behind the dry season farming.

Therefore, as part of measures to address the food shortage in the country, the federal government flagged off the 2023/2024 dry season farming on November 25, 2023.

According to a statement by the technical adviser on strategy to the minister of agriculture and food security, Kingsley Osadolor, in line with that development, there would be a 50 per cent drop in the price of agricultural inputs, as it plans to distribute a range of agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides to farmers to boost dry season farming. He said the 2023/2024 dry season farming is expected to take place in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A major aspect of the programme, he said, is the availability of irrigable land where the dry season farming would occur. While highlighting funding for the project, he said, “The 2023/2024 dry season farming would be boosted by an African Development Bank facility and implemented under the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro-Pocket (NAGS-AP) project.

“The implementation is ICT-driven with earlier steps taken to geo-locate farmlands, enumerate, register and cluster no fewer than 250,000 farmers.”

Some of the selected crops, according to him, are wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, soybeans, and cassava.

In addition to this, he said wheat farmers across the country had been guaranteed off-take of their produce by the Flour Millers Association of Nigeria “as soon as the produce is ready.”

The Jigawa example

In line with this, Blueprint Weekend gathered that Jigawa state government has planned to engage over 42,000 to 84,000 wheat dry season farmers across its 27 local government areas, with 50% input subsidy in the 2023/2024 Federal Government Wheat Development Programme.

While 150,000 to 250,000 farmers are expected to be supported nationwide, this number can be expanded to 300,000 and 500,000 farmers respectively, if two farmers can share one hectare of the land and make use of it judiciously.

The state government alone has secured 40,000 out of the total 100,000 hectares of land allocated by federal government for the 2023/2024 wheat dry season farming in the country. In actual fact, the state is given 40% of the entire 100% hectares of land proposed for the programme.

Saturday last week was the official flag-off ceremony of the 2023/2024 dry season farming under the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro-Pocket Project (NAGS&AP) held in Kadume, a farming community in Hadejia local government area of the state.

The governor, Malam Umar Namadi, told the wheat farmers in the state to be happy because all they needed to do “is to work hard to justify the assistance rendered to them by both the state and federal governments to boost the production and increase the yield of their farm inputs.”

He said, “It is the attainment of our state and national development objectives of food security, economic diversification and empowerment of the citizens, especially the rural farmers.

“The Wheat Development Programme is an integral part of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu aimed at accelerating the nation’s drive to achieve food security.

“It also perfectly aligns with several aspects of our 12-Point Agenda for Greater Jigawa particularly as it affects food security, economic diversification, job creation, provision of sustainable means of livelihoods for the citizens and overall poverty reduction.

“One of the resolutions under our 12-Point Agenda is to ensure full exploitation of the state’s agricultural potentials through all-year round production by bringing more of our Fadama lands under cultivation.”

In line with the vision of the scheme in the state, each of the farmers would be provided with input subsidy support granted by the federal government that is equivalent to 50% of the estimated cost of packaged input requirements thereby amounting to about N361,000 per hectare.

The full package, according to further investigations, comprises appropriate mix of fertiliser, inorganic liquid urea, organic fertiliser fortified with booster/growth enhancer, certified wheat seeds and herbicides.

Each farmer is only expected to pay 12.5% of the total cost of input package equivalent to about N42, 125 per hectare at the point of input collection, the balance of N135, 275 would be recovered after harvest.

In order to provide comfort to the farmers, the state government has worked out an arrangement with Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to provide guarantee for the balance of 37.5% of the cost of inputs supplied.

Namadi made the local farmers, both the small and the large scale, to know that the federal and state governments have given topmost priority to the agricultural programme; therefore, all hands must be on deck to ensure its success.

Elaborating

According to Governor Namadi, “Over the years, Jigawa state has successfully pursued an agricultural transformation agenda which has significantly contributed to our nation’s quest for food security and economic diversification.

“Today, Jigawa state is a leading producer of rice, sesame and hibiscus among many other crops.”

Continuing, he said, “I am happy to mention that the mantra of ‘Farming is a Business’ pursued over the years has worked well for us where more and more people have embraced farming beyond subsistence level.

“It is a common knowledge that Jigawa state is the heart of wheat production in Nigeria with potential to provide up to 200,000 hectares for wheat production.

“These developments informed the choice of the state as the primary focal state for the Wheat Development Programme.”

Partnership with FG

“The Wheat Development Programme partnership with the federal government is in line with our resolve to sustain progress and built on previous achievements of the agricultural transformation agenda. It is in line with our objectives to sustainably improve the socio-economic well-being of our citizens,” the governor.

Assurances

The minister of agriculture noted that dry season farming is an integral part of the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and AgroPocket (NAGS-AP) Project made possible by a $134 million loan facility advanced to Nigeria by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“In wheat alone, we aim to support between 150,000 and 250,000 farmers with 50% input subsidy to cultivate between 200,000 and 250,000 hectares with an expected yield of 1,250,000 tonnes of wheat.

“Extension, detailing innovative irrigation techniques, promoting water conservation and good agronomic practices (GAP) are also being mainstreamed.

“I would like to point out that we are deploying wheat tolerant heat varieties like Borlaug 100, Attila. We will progressively invest in irrigation infrastructure projects to optimise water usage and mitigate the challenges posed by the dry season farming,” the minister said.

Gratitude

Wheat farmers were full of appreciation of the event because each of them was given enough chemical and organic fertilizer, insecticide and other implements including tractors.

Speaking to this newspaper, the farmers said they benefited several times from the government’s intervention where farm inputs were provided to each of them at a subsidised rate.

“Although we were benefitting from the fertiliser subsidy and other implements under the state government, but on assumption of office, Governor Namadi made the business easier than it was in the past.

“Now, the farm equipment are accessible at a cheaper rate and all the machines and other inputs the governor promised were truly provided to the true dry season wheat farmers,” a wheat farmer, Abdu Naha Hadejia, said.

Others said they were optimistic about having a bumper harvest this year because the state had provided tractors across the 27 local governments to ease the cultivation of land.

Now that the pilot scheme has been done in Jigawa state, everyone is waiting for how other states would queue in, but, according to Pa Isaiah Momoh, a farmer in Kogi state, many state governments would rather dwell on politics and elections because of their selfish interests as against the genuine needs of the people.

UNI Agric Markurdi
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